Tahaffuz Namoos-i-Risalat Mahaz (TNRM) activists again violated the ban on rallies on The Mall on Monday as they marched on the main road and staged a sit-in in front of the Lahore High Court in protest at the conviction and death sentence handed to Mumtaz Qadri for the killing of Salmaan Taseer.
The police used teargas and fired live ammunition in the air to disperse the stick-wielding protestors in clashes near the LHC building, but the protestors stood their ground. Four policemen and 10 protestors were injured. Eight were later arrested.
The protestors, about 2,000 in number, gathered at Data Darbar just before noon and then marched towards The Mall. The police confronted them at PMG Chowk to stop them blocking The Mall, but the protestors were able to get past them. At GPO chowk, TNRM leaders started making speeches.
Meanwhile, a group of about 100 protestors headed towards the Punjab Assembly and was intercepted by the police near the State Bank. The protestors were driven away by a light-baton charge and chased by policemen. When the group got back to the main protest venue at GPO chowk, they began throwing stones at the police. Some broke into a Coca Cola van and threw filled bottle at the police near Cookers restaurant. The driver and another staffer in the van fled.
SP Jawad Qamar met with TNRM leaders including Professor Dr Ashraf Asif Jalali and Maulana Khadim Hussain and agreed to let them continue the sit-in if it remained peaceful. The protestors offered their Asr and Maghrib prayers at GPO Chowk and said they would not leave until their fellow activists arrested earlier were released. SSP (Operations) Shaukat Abbas asked them to end their protest and come to his office on Outfall Road to pick them up, but they did not agree. The sit-in eventually ended at around 8pm.
Addressing the protesters, Dr Jalali said Qadri must be released or the protests would be expanded to cities all over the country. He said they were out expressing their support not just for Qadri, but also the blasphemy laws. He said in their next protest they would march to Islamabad wearing shrouds. They said they would break into Adiala Jali to free “Ghazi Mumtaz Hussain Qadri”.
Talking to reporters, Dr Jalali said their rally had been infiltrated by personnel of secret agencies who had tried to sabotage the protest by attacking the police with stones. He said no TNRM activist was involved in the clashes with police. He said the policemen had baton-charged the peaceful protesters.
DIG (Operations) Ghulam Mohammad Dogar said that the rally was largely peaceful apart from “some saboteurs”. He said that four policemen were severely injured. He said they had arrested eight protesters but were yet to decided whether to register cases against them.
In a press release, the Sunnit Ittehad Council said it would not accept the punishment handed to Qadri. “Those who accept it are not Muslims,” it said. The statement added that SIC Chairman Fazle Karim had written to President Asif Ali Zardari seeking a pardon for Qadri.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 4th, 2011.